What Is The Difference Between the Degrees of Murder?

What Is The Difference Between 1st-degree 2nd-degree And 3rd-degree Murders Definition of Murder

According to the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School, Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. Cambridge dictionary defines murder as the crime of intentionally killing a person. Read further to know the Difference Between the Degrees of Murder.

The act of murder is a heinous crime that is punishable by law in countries all over the world, but while some kinds of murder are intentional and premeditated, others are not. The terms 1st-degree, 2nd-degree, and 3rd-degree murders refer to different categories of murder committed. This article is designed to look into the difference between 1st-degree 2nd-degree and 3rd-degree murders. The definition of each differs from state to state, so does the law regulating them and the legal punishment for each.

We will take a look at the different degrees of murder.

What is 1st-degree murder?

1st-degree murder refers to the premeditated and intentional illegal killing of one human being by another. 1st-degree murders are done willingly and deliberately. They require strategic planning and careful execution. Here, the murderer has carefully thought of a way to kill the person beforehand.  Homicide and felony murders such as arson, rape, murder, etc., are considered as 1st-degree murder.

An example of 1st-degree murder, a man discovers that his wife has been cheating on him with his best friend. The man then strategically stalks his best friend to know his daily routine, after which he then picks a particular day where he follows his best friend home at night, sneaks into his house, and shoots him in the head with a shotgun. 

1st-degree murders carry the longest and most severe prison sentence. An individual accused of 1st-degree murder will be sentenced to death, but in cases where the murderer does not get the death sentence, the murderer will get the life sentence without parole as punishment for his crime.

What is 2nd-degree murder?

2nd-degree murder refers to one human being intentionally killing another. Unlike 1st-degree murder, it is not premeditated and does not require planning. It may result from a violent attack by one individual to another, which leads to death. It occurs due to provocation and on the spur of the moment. 

An example of 2nd-degree murder, if an argument breaks out in a bar and one man uses a broken bottle to stab another man and it results in death. Another example is a gunshot into the air in a crowd which may eventually cause the death of someone.

The punishment for 2nd-degree murder is not as severe as that of 1st-degree murder. In this case, the accused individual does not get a death sentence, neither does he or she get life imprisonment, rather the individual is sentenced to some years, which can range from 15-25 years in prison depending on the state. 

What is 3rd-degree murder?

3rd-degree murder refers to the illegal, unintentional, and unplanned act of murder. Here, a murderer unintentionally inflicts bodily harm on the victim, which results in death. 3rd-degree murder may result from the killing of an individual because of the recklessness or negligence of another individual. It may sometimes be compared to manslaughter, which refers to a complete disregard for human life but the unintentional killing of one individual by another.

An example of a 3rd-degree murder, a driver who has been drinking and driving recklessly who does not see an oncoming pedestrian and runs into the pedestrian. If, after the accident, the pedestrian dies, then this can be classified as a 3rd-degree murder. The driver had no intention to kill anyone nor did he plan the death.

Of all the states that make up the United States of America, only three states recognize 3rd-degree murder and they are Florida, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. The other states recognize it based on manslaughter.

3rd-degree murders can carry a reduced prison sentence. An individual that is found guilty of 3rd-degree murder may be sentenced to 15-25 years in prison and asked to pay a fine. It is important to know that the prison sentence, as well as the fine, varies from state to state.

Below is a table that highlights the difference between the degrees of murder

S/N1st-degree murder2nd-degree murder3rd-degree murder
This kind of murder is done intentionally.The murder is done unintentionally.3rd-degree murder is committed unintentionally.
The murderer takes out time to plan the murder.It does not require planning, it happens on the spur of the moment.It is not premeditated but happens due to reckless behavior.
The guilty individual can get a death sentence or life imprisonment.The guilty party may get a sentence that ranges from 15-25 years in prison.If found guilty, the accused may be sentenced to 15-25 years in prison.
It does not involve paying a fine. Sentencing does not involve paying a fine.It involves paying a fine along with spending some years in prison.

The degrees of murder are so categorized to ascertain a fair and just punishment to the guilty party. The judgment made may depend on the mental state of the murderer, if or not the individual is sane or has some form of mental condition.

In conclusion, any type of murder is a crime, and they always carry a certain jail term, but this varies from state to state and the category the murder falls in.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the difference between a 1st-degree murder and a 2nd-degree murder?

The difference between these two is “premeditation”, while 1st-degree murder is premeditated and 2nd-degree murder is not.

  1. Why does 1st-degree murder carry a death sentence?

It carries the death sentence because the guilty party shows a complete disregard for human life, strategic plans and sometimes stalks the potential victim and eventually kills the victim.

  1. Which category of murder carries the gravest judgment?

1st-degree murder carries the gravest judgment, which may be a death sentence or life imprisonment.

What Is The Difference Between the Degrees of Murder?

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